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Apprenticeship: A Final Reflection

Updated: Oct 19

Truly, what I've always wanted out of a career was the opportunity to create every day. For years I worked multiple jobs while attending college, hoping that one day my art business would take off. I begged the universe to help me find that path. Tricia Atkinson, owner of Figure 8 ink studios, was an art instructor during my Junior year of high school. It was there we were introduced to each other's artwork and passion for creativity. Years later, I started coming to figure 8 to get tattooed; I now know how important that was to getting my foot in the door. I made my interest in the shop known, and when they needed a new assistant, she and Gabby (former shop manager) heard my pleas to the universe and offered me the position. Customer service was always my strong suit, so receptionist/shop management in an artistic environment was a perfect fit. With an open mind and eager heart, I accepted every task. My start with the shop was about two years ago now, and that opportunity continues to shape my outlook on professionality, tattooing, and life.

Despite my passion and drive for creating, I honestly abandoned the dream of tattooing when I was a teenager. I didn’t expect to find myself working in a shop, feeling I wasn’t going to be accepted. Only 25% of tattooers are women, and knowing the reputation and attitudes of some shops I was almost certain I wouldn’t be considered or taken seriously. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my integrity or self respect for a position no matter how passionate I was. Thankfully, my preconceptions of tattoo shops were shattered when I started working at Figure 8. You don’t have to be hazed to earn a place in this shop, simply work your hardest, and give respect where it’s due. My time in shop management not only showed me the ins and outs of keeping things running smoothly, it showed me just how professional the other side of tattooing can be. It exemplified how an industry believed to be rough and illusive has grown to welcome many types of artists and staff with progressive approaches to art and customer service. It fills me with hope that a strange, anxious young woman like myself was supported and believed in, and given the opportunity to learn and be a part of something greater.

After a few months and a few long discussions, Tricia and I began my apprenticeship in October 2020. At that time she passed on materials from her first apprentice as well as from her own apprenticeship, all of which we can reference and learn from throughout the entirety of our careers. I spent hours researching my responsibilities and DPOR ( Department of Professional and Occupational Regulations ) requirements. During that first month or so I collected necessary blood borne pathogens and first aid certifications and studied Virginia’s laws for tattooing. At home I was drawing every day, and watching documentaries about the history of tattoos. In November 2020 I officially got my apprentice license and we stepped it up. I started collecting my 1500 required hours little by little. We planned out weekly and monthly schedules, laid out a full binder for notes, resources, and reflections. There were study nights using multiple machine types together on multiple practice surfaces (pig skin and silicone), long days of observing her and the other artists' work, and so many email consultations. Then in February 2021, I started tattooing people and fell in love. In Virginia, an apprentice is required to make 100 tattoos before applying for their license. What felt like the end of a long race was really the starting line.

Throughout those 100 tattoos my passion has taken on a new form. I think about drawing in a whole new way. I dream about tattooing, I read about it, I won’t shut up about it. I listen to tattoo podcasts and follow hundreds of artists on instagram. I crave nothing more than to never stop learning. Now, 1500 hours later, there’s just a multiple choice test and a few official documents between me and my right to call myself a tattooer; Once again what feels like the end is really just the beginning. I will never fail to acknowledge the amount of luck and hard work that went into my current position. The years of study, lessons from mentors, my mistakes and my achievements will be with me for every step I take in my career. This experience has been one of my greatest challenges, a true test of my patience, and passion; It gave me the keys to the rest of my life and it will never be taken for granted.


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